VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, FAIRIES – NOT YOUR MOTHER’S OTHERWORLDLIES
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they are changin’. This is very true in the paranormal world. What is it with the vamps, werewolves, even fairies in today’s romance books? I decided to take a look back at myths and legends and how they’ve evolved.
I grew up with Bela Lugosi as Dracula. He was scary as heck and certainly no one I wanted to meet in a dark alley. There was nothing sexy about this vamp. Before the Dracula movies, there was a 1922 German film called “Nosferatu,” loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel. Nosferatu is the ugliest, most vile creature I’ve ever seen. Enough to give a person many nightmares. Sure don’t find any heroes who look like him in today’s paranormal romances.
Our pop culture seems obsessed with vampires. From dark Eastern European legends, the vampire has gone through a metamorphosis into a sexy hero with superpowers. Those original vampires were evil, disgusting dead creatures, like Nosferatu. Now they’re hunky and handsome with great sexual stamina.
Bram Stoker may have started this modern trend with “Dracula,” which changed the vampire from a smelly dead bloodsucker to an intelligent, tortured bloodsucker.
Look at the proliferation and popularity of vampire romances. Especially look at the hugely successful Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Some who study pop culture say our fascination with the supernatural, especially vampires, is an attempt to escape from our dangerous modern world. We want to believe in creatures like vampires who have cheated death and have superpowers.
And then there are werewolves. Here’s what Wikipedia says about werewolves: “A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope (from the Greek, ‘wolf’, and ‘man,’) is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely, by being bitten by another werewolf, or after being placed under a curse. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon, as popularly noted by the medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury, and perhaps in earlier times among the ancient Greeks through the writings of Petronius. Werewolves are often attributed superhuman strength and senses, far beyond those of both wolves and men.”
There it is again – superhuman strength and senses. Is this something we crave in our uncertain world?
Werewolves have been part of folklore since Greek times. Becoming a werewolf simply by being bitten by another werewolf as a form of contagion is common in modern horror fiction, but this kind of transmission is rare in legend. (source: Wikipedia)
Some legends say a person becomes a werewolf as the result of a curse. I used this scenario in my paranormal romance, “Cursed Mates,” when my character, Nicholas, is cursed as a werewolf in 1530 by a demon who is also Nick’s political and love rival.
The susceptibility of werewolves to silver objects and bullets isn’t found anywhere in legend. This silver vulnerability was literary license taken by novelists from 1935 on. (Wikipedia)
Just as vampires of legend were repulsive, wicked creatures, werewolves were blood-thirsty, snarling, drooling beasts. The 1935 film, “Werewolves of London,” was the first to show the werewolf as a tragic figure. Do any of you remember the old “Wolfman” movies with Lon Chaney? The actor played the creature as very tortured. He didn’t transform into a wolf, but into a very hairy man. Definitely not sexy.
Unlike those old films, the werewolf heroes in today’s romance novels and movies shift into powerful wolves. They may be conflicted, like my Nicholas, or some may be evil and relish the killing. In any case, bad or good, they’re not hairy men when they transform. And in their human form, they’re usually sexy and heroic.
Now to fairies. I always pictured fairies as tiny creatures with wings. Tinker Bell, anyone? Now there are romances with fairy heroes and heroines. I’ve read a few, and they’re good, but I can’t get past the image of tiny, winged creatures. When did fairies become sexy?
From Wikipedia: “Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term fairy offers many definitions. Sometimes the term describes any magical creature, including goblins or gnomes; at other times, the term only describes a specific type of more ethereal creature.” Got that?
I was surprised to learn that the diminutive size of fairies is a modern interpretation. They were originally tall, radiant, angelic creatures. Bet you didn’t know that. So the authors who write sexy fairy characters are going back to the original legends. Cool.
Another interpretation is that fairies are demoted angels. That can make for some interesting stories. Some beliefs say fairies are demons. Wow, all kinds of ideas there.
I’m still amazed at how differently our popular culture views these ancient creatures and legends. Maybe the experts are correct and we do need to go to the supernatural to escape the modern world. Works for me.